I think this book dug out a piece of my soul, it was that life-changing.
Discovery: One of my best friends, Allie, rec...moreMy original review:
I think this book dug out a piece of my soul, it was that life-changing.
Discovery: One of my best friends, Allie, recommended this book. She insisted that I read it because it was too powerful for her to talk about coherently. When someone comes to me with that kind of a reaction to a novel, I go after it immediately.
+ Uncertainty. Most novels give their readers a buoy to hang on to while the story unfolds. It can be a character, a place, an even or even just a single belief, but it keeps the reader tied to a semblance of truth. Stolen breaks this mold almost immediately. As a letter to a kidnapper, it’s emotional and affectionate, two things that will surprise and even disgust readers. I was never quite sure that Ty fit the evil mold society casts on criminals, nor could I be certain that Gemma wasn’t falling in love with him. In this story, only Gemma and Ty hold all the cards. Christopher is a masterful narrator, dancing between the shades of gray that make up this novel.
+ Breathtaking descriptions. I have a lot of friends in Australia, but most of them live in the urban areas so I’ve never really heard about the beauty of the outback. Christopher does an excellent job of making the scenery come alive around Gemma & Ty. The desert, much like Ty, is a difficult point of interest at first, but gradually, Gemma and the reader begin to see the complex beauty at its heart. Whether or not the reader thinks Ty is bad news, it’s not at all challenging to fall in love with the Australian desert.
+ Ty. Now before anyone gets on me with the whole “you-just-like-him-because-he’s-mysterious~~” tack, wait a minute. I’m including Ty as a positive because when I finished the book, I couldn’t remember what he looked like. I couldn’t even remember if I was even told the colour of his hair. The characterization was so flawlessly executed that it didn’t matter. Ty is a living, breathing character, with all the flaws and complexities of any human being, which makes the central conflict of the novel so fascinating.
- The fact that I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this novel.
- The ending. Because it ended.
Recommendations: This is not a trigger-free book–in fact, I would go so far as to say that it should be handled very carefully. Stolen requires a certain level of maturity and critical thinking to be appreciated. The older end of the YA spectrum audience can only be made richer by this novel.
Ugh my heart hurts so much. I am not coherent enough to write a proper review right now, but I LOVED IT....moreMy original post:
I can't believe it's over.
Ugh my heart hurts so much. I am not coherent enough to write a proper review right now, but I LOVED IT. Thank you, Melissa, for such a wonderful, thought-provoking series.
A proper review:
Discovery: I’ve been patiently waiting for this novel, the final book in the Wicked Lovely/Tattoo Faeries (depending on who you ask) series, for years. I first read Wicked Lovely in November 2007 and it remains one of the best birthday presents I ever bought myself.
+ Ensemble/world. One of the things I love most about this series is the vibrant cast of characters. Only Fragile Eternity (Book 3) served as a real sequel–Ink Exchange and Radiant Shadows opened different curtains on the WL stage. Darkest Mercy brings all the fey and humans together for one final satisfying stand. I really enjoyed the character development, especially in Niall, Irial, Donia and Keenan.
On a related note, I will be forever in awe of the world that Melissa Marr created. It’s creepy and passionate and so very alive that I’m scared the translation from text to screen (Wicked Lovely is going to be a movie!) will either take it too far or not far enough. The fey and their courts are perfectly nuanced in their presentation and it’s not hard to imagine this other world surrounding us.
+ Seth. It’s no secret that for the last four years, the teenager in me has harboured a tendre for Seth Morgan. This is a point for Melissa Marr’s characterization because I’ve never really found tattooed and pierced guys attractive. His attitude and actions speak far more than his appearance, though, and of all the characters in the series, he undergoes the most startling transformation.
I suppose what I like most about Seth is his determination. Wicked Lovely introduced him as Aislinn’s friend-who-wants-something-more, but didn’t stop there and that’s the best thing about it. The five books have seen him grow and experience pain and make decisions that speak of his maturity and acceptance of the faerie world around him. More than anything, his devotion to Aislinn isn’t blind: he pursues her and her world actively, making sure that when it all ends and whether either or both of them die, they see each other as equals.
+ Conclusion. I will argue with anyone on this, because I feel like it was the one of the most satisfying series endings I’ve ever read. I can’t say much without spoiling anyone, but I loved the simplicity and integrity of it. One of the themes in WL is the importance of compromise. These days, so much of the world is coloured gray and it isn’t easy to live a black-and-white existence. Marr’s faeries reflect our own on-the-fence choices and in the course of the series, they are each faced with decisions they don’t want to make. How they deal with it brings about conclusions none of them can foresee and the sheer bravery they display in return is commendable.
- Action scenes. In the course of reading this novel, I couldn’t help but compare it to Radiant Shadows, the previous book which I’ve read maybe 20 times. At times, it felt as though I was watching the action scenes happen through a blurry glass window. They didn’t feel real enough and I found myself wishing it would end so I would know who survived. In Radiant Shadows, I could barely keep myself from whimpering as my favourite characters took hits.
Recommendations: A stellar conclusion to a gorgeous series, this chapter will satisfy young adult readers, and provide lots of discussion, especially for faerie lovers.
Release Date:January 17, 2012 Publisher: Walker & Company Age Group: Young Adult Pages...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 17, 2012 Publisher: Walker & Company Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 264 Format: Hardcover Source: Personal copy
Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine —despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?
Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?
Discovery: The first time I heard about this book, it was being compared to If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I hadn't read that book yet, but I was interested, and when I finally got to read it, I became even more nervous about Fracture. Thankfully, all my fears were put to rest.
+ Characterization. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Fracture's Delaney Maxwell. The cover copy made her seem untouchable, one of the popular girls whose life changed in an instant. I doubted that I would actually like her, despite the hook of the story. Delaney surprised me, not just with an inner strength that made me admire her, but a concrete desire to be a good person. Sure, we can throw around words like "flawed" and "struggling," but neither of those words can encompass the full spectrum that is Delaney Maxwell. She's a girl who doesn't quite know what to do with herself, but she never tries to bring others down. She is introspective and stoic, but she is also afraid. Miranda captures all of the contradictions of the teenage existence in one voice. She made me want to be Delaney's friend, and that is the greatest compliment I can give a character.
+ Writing style. To best illustrate my point, allow me to quote from the book itself--
“I hadn't known that a light could be a feeling and a sound could be a color and a kiss could be both a question and an answer. And that heaven could be the ocean or a person or this moment or something else entirely.”
Megan Miranda's writing style is deceptively simple. These two sentences may not have any SAT words, but when you read them aloud? Pure music. Too often, we see writers that try to impress readers with their extensive vocabularies. Language is powerful when it is used sparingly, giving each word the power to knock a reader off their feet. Fracture is full of beautiful paragraphs and lines that you don't realize are strong until you actually shed a tear without knowing it. (I cried on the subway. No lie.)
+ Friendship. Where have all the friendships in YA gone? Many of the books I read today showcase friends who are fun to read about, but not really realistic. They're all so witty and snarky and I get that teens want that smartass (excuse my French) attitude, but let's be real. Friendship is also about the quiet moments. Decker and Delaney are not only Best Friends Forever, they are also the best friends FOR each other. They care for each other deeply, and they are not afraid to say "You're being a jackass, stop it" to each other. That requires bravery and strength, and they both make the story worth reading.
The final say: What else could I possibly say? Fracture is a book I'll be talking about to every reader I meet.
A superb sequel that only raises the bar for all of Lyga's future books, not just the next Jasper Dent installment (because there is one, right? THERE...moreA superb sequel that only raises the bar for all of Lyga's future books, not just the next Jasper Dent installment (because there is one, right? THERE HAS TO BE.)(less)
This is the kind of story that lives in one's soul forever.
Tell Me More:Rare is the story that wins me over from the first page, convinces me to set...moreThis is the kind of story that lives in one's soul forever.
Tell Me More: Rare is the story that wins me over from the first page, convinces me to set aside a morning to sink into its world. Rarer still is the story that leaves me literally breathless and ready to collect copies to send to people that I love. And this year? Deathless is that story.
Marya Morevna is exactly the protagonist that I've been looking for in YA fiction, and yet her story is directed towards adults. She is marked by danger, followed by it, until she becomes dangerous herself. There is a leashed deadliness to her every thought and move, even as a child. She sees the things no one else admits to seeing, she confronts them and calls out to them, and she understands the power of a secret, capable of destroying as it is destroyed.
I will never be without information, she determined. I will do better than my sisters. If a bird or any other beast comes out of that uncanny republic where husbands are grown, I will see him with his skin off before I agree to fall in love. For this was how Marya Morevna surmised that love was shaped: an agreement, a treaty between two nations that one could either sign or not as they pleased.
When Marya saw something extraordinary again, she would be ready. She would be clever. She would not let it rule her or trick her. She would do the tricking, if tricking was called for.
And if they thought her aimless, if they thought her a bit mad, let them. It meant they left her alone. Marya was not aimless, anyway. She was thinking.
Compared to Marya, Koschei and Ivan are two-dimensional, recognizable characters. She outshines them, compelling the reader to look at her, understand her. She is clever, more than she realizes at times, and she is resourceful. More importantly, she never truly gives up. She might I would go so far as to say that Valente didn't created the Marya of this story--she created herself, and she will continue to exist long after the reader leaves her world.
And what a world it is: Deathless contains one of the most brilliant universes I have seen in all my years of reading. Valente uses her prose with precision, pinpointing the threads that hold both her settings and characters together. Domoyava enliven Marya's childhood, while chyerti surround her in adulthood. The famine that held Leningrad captive in 1942 is excruciating to read about, and I feel no shame in admitting that I cried through that entire chapter. She brings the reader into Marya's life without making a fuss about the way it happens, and the experience is earth-shattering to say the least. I did not know a writer could pluck the music out of sentences the way Valente does, and the melodies are haunting.
Beyond the beauty of the words, however, the insights shared are sharp as arrows and just as piercing. Some books might be termed "quietly feminist"--Deathless might pretend to whisper its philosophy into your ear, but it does so with the full intention of keeping those ideas there, letting them simmer before they command action. Women are front-and-centre in Deathless, from the twelve mothers who raise Marya to the widow Likho to the unforgettable Baba Yaga. Marya learns from women and breaks away from women, and it is her womanhood that empowers her to be more. Once, she is told:
Cosmetics are an extension of the will. Why do you think all men paint themselves when they go to fight? When I paint my eyes to match my soup, it is not because I have nothing better to do than worry over trifles. It says, I belong here, and you will not deny me. When I streak my lips red as foxgloves, I say, Come here, male. I am your mate, and you will not deny me. When I pinch my cheeks and dust them with mother-of-pearl, I say, Death, keep off, I am your enemy, and you will not deny me. I say these things, and the world listens, Masha. Because my magic is as strong as an arm. I am never denied.
And suddenly makeup is more than just makeup to the reader--it is as powerful as the person using it, and it is what the person chooses to make of it. So it is with life and death and love. Marya might have waited for Koschei to come to her as birds came to her sisters, she might have known less, been less, but it is her will that prevails over everything in the story.
Perhaps all a Tsaritsa is is a beautiful cold girl in the snow, looking down at someone wretched, and not yielding.
Valente doesn't excuse or justify the choices that Marya makes. She challenges the reader to be like Marya, an indomitable survivor. For what else can you be when you are a Tsaritsa caught between Life and Death, and enamoured of both? What is there to do when war surrounds you, lives in you, and loss is the only reality you know? What is there but to survive and work and see another day? The answer is everything. Everything lies between Life and Death, and everything lies waiting for someone to realize it and call it for what it is. "Life is like that," several characters echo, and so it is.
The Final Say: Catherynne M. Valente has won me over as a faithful reader, and I will live the rest of my life hungering for another story like Deathless.
Tell Me More: Selkie folklore is, bar none, my favourite sea myth, so it won’t come as...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Tell Me More: Selkie folklore is, bar none, my favourite sea myth, so it won’t come as a shock to anyone that as soon as I found out about Tides, I knew I had to pick it up.
From the first melodic line in the prologue, Betsy Cornwell sets up a story that doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. And how could it, when so much of selkie mythology talks about how they are fleeting visitors in one’s life? Unlike many mermaids in popular culture, selkies may be enchanted by land, may need it, but they never stay for long. Cornwell does an excellent job of capturing the ephemeral nature of the selkie and her writing style fits very well with the way Noah begins to learn about them.
Interestingly enough, Tides employs a few different points-of-view within the story, a technique I also encountered in The Brides of Rollrock Island. I actually enjoyed the use of multiple narrators–it contributed well to the idea of dualism and differences within the story. The same theme is reflected in the cover: both the seal and woman move in different directions. Noah also finds himself facing conflicts between what he believes to be true, and what he has begun to see as fact, and Cornwell handles this uncertainty and confusion with a gentle hand.
If there was one thing I was dissatisfied with, it would be the way social issues seemed to pop up every few chapters. Merged seamlessly with the story, these aspects would not have been as distracting as they were, though I understood that the contemporary setting might have lent itself to that opportunity. That said, if a little more time had been spent elaborating on Lo’s bulimia, I think that conflict would have been an excellent addition to the story, as it fits with the theme of shedding a part of oneself to take on another form.
The Final Say: Tides is not a story to be read quickly–it is best consumed in pieces, to let the prose sink in and work its magic. Betsy Cornwell is an author to watch for her subtle and captivating writing style.(less)
Discovery: The only thing I knew about this book before reading it was that it was a really confusing and heartstopping ride through Mara Dyer’s life....moreDiscovery: The only thing I knew about this book before reading it was that it was a really confusing and heartstopping ride through Mara Dyer’s life. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I figured that since people found it challenging to review, the complexity would be appealing.
I’ll say off the bat: this is going to be a very weird review.
+/- Writing style. Michelle Hodkin has a talent for strong, punchy sentences that move the story along wonderfully. The first chapter hooked me and refused to let me go. I could quote passages from the book that made me pause and shake my head and say “Oh MAN, Michelle is awesome,” but we’d be here all night. I appreciate the care she took in using the right tone and language for a girl like Mara. The story wouldn’t be nearly as impressive without the lyrical and natural prose that she uses.
Unfortunately, there were also times where I felt like a lot of confusion could have been cleared up with clearer writing. The mystery behind Mara’s abilities and flashbacks becomes murkier in some parts of the book where you’d expect them to be better explained. I had moments where I wasn’t sure what was happening or even when it was happening. I am willing to give Michelle Hodkin the benefit of the doubt because Mara’s own mental state isn’t normal for much of the novel.
+/- Characters. Here’s the thing: I really really like Mara. But I also kind of hate Noah. Let me explain.
Mara is a kickass character, one that surprised me in every chapter. I was invested in her journey from the first paragraph. I wanted to know if she would have the mental and emotional peace she so desperately needs after the death of her friends, and I wanted her to be happy. She isn’t weak in the slightest, and she gives the reader a hell of a story. This is not to say she’s perfect: I wasn’t too happy with the way she treats her mother and brothers. But she is written well enough for me to give her a little leeway, though not much.
On the other hand, I thought I was going to fall hard for Noah, and I almost did. He is a classic playboy and Mara is the girl he professes to have changed for, and I have problems with that. If you’ve read my review of Lola and the Boy Next Door, you’ll know that I don’t find bad boys appealing. Boys that push the envelope a little? Definitely. But ones that treat girls badly and pretend not to care? Yeah, we might have an issue there. I find it a little difficult to believe that someone who respects herself as much as Mara does would be so taken in by Noah that quickly. And therein lies my concern over paranormal romances: most of them are lightning-fast, devotion forming in the blink of an eye, without any steps back to consider what is really happening. If Noah is as bad as people say he is, then I need something more to believe that Mara would want to be with him.
+/- Paranormal twists. I can’t say much about this without spoiling anyone–yes it’s that difficult–but I will say that you’ll need the sequel. The ending is confusing and I’m still not sure what happened, but I want to know more. In a way, I suppose this is a good thing. Michelle Hodkin came up with a story so complex and layered that it needs three books to be told and I truly hope the succeeding novels will be clearer.
Recommendations: Mara Dyer is a wild ride and one that will probably need a couple rereadings to be fully understood. It’s worth picking up for sure, and I can’t wait for the sequel.
Release Date:December 5, 2011 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group:...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: December 5, 2011 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 336 Format: Hardcover Source: Personal copy
Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, "Old Lucy" still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.
Garden State meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.
Discovery: While browsing Goodreads lists one lazy afternoon, I came across this gorgeous cover. If you know me, you know that winter is my favourite season--despite the dangers of frostbite--and I loved that the summary sounded like a quirky, David-Levithan-esque novel.
+ Illustrations. Let's be honest, sometimes it can get exhausting to look at pages and pages of straight text. I probably read upwards of 1000+ pages a week and when I'm curled up next to my pillows, I sometimes need something special to want to keep reading. Wintertown was one of those books that I just breezed through, because the illustrations were amazing. In fact, I can't imagine this story without illustrations--they complement Emond's writing so well and tell their own story. I loved that they weren't super polished and even that the lines seemed to pulse with uncertainty. Evan has a talent to be sure, but he hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet. I loved the potential that I could see in every hand-drawn page.
+ Plot. Slice-of-life stories are some of my favourite pieces to read. Studying creative writing gave me a taste for unvarnished, simple stories about complicated people. And man, were Lucy and Evan complicated. Stephen Emond has a knack for writing coming-of-age tales that get to the heart of all that insecurity and uncertainty. It takes courage to really grow up, and watching Lucy and Evan try to figure things out was both heartwarming and scary. I remember what it was like to be unsure of my own future, and that perspective made reading this book a truly exceptional experience.
+ Romance. This book pushed all my buttons, it really did! When I started reading, I was actually comparing Wintertown to Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (hence the David Levithan mention above). It didn't take long for me to be utterly enchanted by the quiet charm of this story. Where D&L is boisterous and feisty, Wintertown is careful and shy, much like their protagonists. I loved that the romance had so much to do with the setting as well--when it snows, the world looks like a completely different place, and anything can happen. There are so many possibilities surrounding Lucy and Evan, and watching them realize those new dreams was wonderful.
The final say: With vibrant and quirky characters, Wintertown will charm every reader. Stephen Emond writes a story alive with hope and reminds us that our best dreams aren't always the ones we set out to have.
Tell Me More:Eleanor & Park was a book that came highly recommended to me by the fabulous Rebecca at Indigo Yorkdale. With comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars and Gayle Forman being made by fellow readers I trusted, I knew right away that I had to find the time to check out why everyone loved this story. Unfortunately, good recommendations don't always result in satisfying reads, and Eleanor and Park simply did not charm me as much as I hoped they would.
My reading experience can best be expressed as an inability to suspend disbelief. I couldn't lose myself in the story because everything felt too perfectly set up to tell a certain kind of story. I felt like I could see all the reasons why Rowell chose to have her characters say and do certain things, instead of discovering those hidden layers bit by bit as I read. I spent most of my reading time nodding along, thinking "of course they love the Smiths," "of course comic books are what they connect over," and the like. There's nothing wrong with those things being E&P's interests, but I feel like every single "nerd/outcast" character in YA fiction shares the same interests. Some variety would be nice--how about a self-proclaimed nerd who loves pop music or reality shows? Park's parents were pretty stereotypical too, and I couldn't quite shed my discomfort with the way the relationship was illustrated. Park' father might love his mother, but I never got the sense that he truly understood her or cared about her cultural background, and I do not agree with John Green's review where he stated that they were well-drawn adults.
Likewise, the love story between Eleanor and Park results in some adorable moments, but it never really got off the ground for me. I couldn't particularly relate to either of them, so I wasn't invested in what eventually happened between them. Some thoughts Eleanor had about Asians also bothered me enough to make me step away from the book for a little bit. The relationship between Eleanor and Park wasn't surprising either, though there were a few moments that made me go "awww." There was little to distinguish it from other contemporary YA romances, and even as I write this review, I struggle to recall scenes that made me emotional.
What I did find intriguing were Eleanor's life at home and her family. I wish more time had been spent on scenes between Eleanor and her siblings, instead of the hints of discontent and distrust that are scattered throughout the book. Her abusive step-father was the only character to garner a real reaction from me, and remembering some of the things he said and did still makes me shudder. I also would have liked to know more about her mother and the relationship they had before her mother married Richie.
The Final Say: Eleanor & Park read like a sketch of a painting: not quite whole, not quite full and not quite real enough to capture my imagination and make me love it.
Release Date: January 17, 2012 Publisher: HMH Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 204 Forma...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: January 17, 2012 Publisher: HMH Books Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 204 Format: Paperback Source: Finished copy received from Thomson Allen, Ltd.
Tell Me More: I used to be a sickly kid, so stories about the terminally ill have always appealed to me because I could relate to them.
Selflessness, courage, compassion: all of these are traits that most people associate with the sick and dying. We laud them for their strength and sympathize with their challenges, but it's clear that no one can really understand illness unless they are in its throes. Does that viewpoint change once we know someone is sick? Do we automatically afford them those traits once they're stuck in a hospital bed? How fair are we really being to them?
The story itself is misleading: it opens with Austen Parker telling his mom he's going out and meeting up with his best friend Kaylee. There is nothing to suggest that Austen is days away from dying. He banters with Kaylee as they drive around to see some of Austen's current and ex-friends/girlfriends, and he tries to talk some sense into them. Reading his impassioned speeches, I was more than a little confused and skeptical. How are readers supposed to be sold on this kid who, for all intents and purposes, just seems to want to preach to people who hurt him/were hurt by him? If I had been one of the characters in the book, I probably would have just said "See you later" and closed the door. Furthermore, it seems strange that Kaylee doesn't continue to ask Austen why she has to drive him around for a weekend. It doesn't even have to be out of concern, just simple curiousity.
Despite the questions that the novel brings up, I enjoyed reading it. Never Eighteen made me reconsider how terminally ill kids and teens are viewed by society, and the expectations that we press onto them. I may not have understood why Austen wanted to spend his time trying to reconnect with people when he felt he was going to die, but I can't begrudge him that opportunity. Call it cliche or maudlin or whatever you like--when was the last time you did something just because you wanted to? Or because you wanted to be a good person? I do wish that we had seen more of Austen's struggle, because he doesn't seem like the kind of kid to naturally decide to journey on like this, but I admire his tenacity. He made his story worth reading.
That's Not All:
- Unrequited love! I won't lie, I cried over Austen and the way he pined over Kaylee. Though I would definitely tell him to just confess--he's taken risks, this is just one more.
The Final Say: A sweet nugget of a book, Never Eighteen will leave readers reflecting on their own mortality and time with loved ones.(less)
Gorgeous and stark at the same time. Linden breaks my heart in much the same way Seth from Wicked Lovely did, and I'm rooting for him. I'm definitely...moreGorgeous and stark at the same time. Linden breaks my heart in much the same way Seth from Wicked Lovely did, and I'm rooting for him. I'm definitely looking forward to the next two books. (less)
Discovery: I originally got an eARC of this book in August from Galley Grab, but I didn’t have time to read it until last week when I bought a copy. I...moreDiscovery: I originally got an eARC of this book in August from Galley Grab, but I didn’t have time to read it until last week when I bought a copy. In the month-or-so between, I heard lots of praise for this fun and fancy-free story and knew I’d have to add it to my list of contemporaries.
+ Setting. Whatever stroke of brilliance gave Leila Sales the idea to set a book in a historical re-enactment community, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love YA, but reading stories set in high schools can get exhausting. Summer stories also tend to be set on the beach or in beach towns, and I want something different. Essex was a charming and entertaining place in itself. I will admit that I’ve wondered what life is like for the interpreters in places like Colonial Williamsburg and Fort Mifflin. Leila Sales gives her readers a group of people who are passionate about what they do and still have a sense of humour. After all, it takes a lot of devotion to one’s work to stand around in a heavy costume during the summer and take photos with people you’ll never see again.
The War between Essex and Reenactmentland was also a highlight of the novel: leave it to the teens to make an otherwise-tedious summer into two months of ambushes, pranks and hilarity. I loved the creativity and enthusiasm that each character displayed in different ways. A companion novel that explores Reenactmentland would definitely find its way onto my TBR pile.
+ Voice. I’ve read a few reviews that took issue with Chelsea and her narration of the book. It is understandable that Chelsea is a little self-centered or oblivious to things around her–she’s a teenager and at that age, the smallest dilemmas can blow up to gargantuan proportions. That said, I enjoyed her generally optimistic nature and her insistence on finding the humour in any problem. Readers will find it easy to sympathize with Chelsea because she genuinely wants to be a better person.
- Pacing. Past Perfect is a quick read, but I do feel like some of the characters were underused because of how fast it moves. Bryan and Tawny stood out the most among the supporting characters and I would have liked to see more of their actions throughout the war. Of course, this book is from Chelsea’s point-of-view, so any additional time spent with Bryan might not be great for him, but it would certainly give the reader more to work with.
Recommendations: Definitely check out Past Perfect if you’re looking for a thoughtful romp through a historical reenactment town. You’ll never look at period costumes the same way again.
Rating: Very good.
Go visit Leila Sales at her website and follow her on Twitter @leilasalesbooks.
You can check out Past Perfect on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.(less)
Tell Me More: At the heart of every major scientific discovery is the existence and absence of life. Having power over creation and destruction is something that all human beings contemplate at least once in their lives, and Cat Patrick's take on that ethical dilemma makes for an interesting piece of literature. However, I hold a few reservations about the execution.
Daisy's name is the least of all the contradictions that make up this unique character--it conjures up images of a dainty, shy girl in the place of what she really is. The first 50 pages struck me as a little strange, and I quickly realized that the reason for it was a lack of detail about Daisy. She felt like a construct to me, a sketch of a character that hasn't been inked in and coloured, up until the chapters where she starts to question the Revive program. She comes alive then, and her determination pushes the story along with a much faster pace. The urgency that I was looking for in such a high-tech story simply wasn't present throughout the whole novel, and I think it could have been a much stronger story with it.
That said, Revived's plot is a lively piece of Patrick's imagination come to life. It forces the reader to face its questions, and it won't take no for an answer. For much of the novel, I was torn as to whether this would be a book that younger teens could handle, despite the facility of its language. It's certainly a novel that needs to be read, but I would recommend that parents and teachers take the time to explain the ethical decisions Daisy makes. Patrick doesn't shy away from giving Daisy a chance to think and reflect on the consequences of her actions and the actions of the entire Revive team. She poses questions that are difficult for both Daisy and the reader to consider, and she is fair to both.
The Final Say: I would give anything for more thought-provoking novels like Revive, and I think our society would be better off for it. Give Cat Patrick's sophomore novel to your kids when it's time to talk about life and death. You won't regret it.
Discovery: Anything Melissa Marr does automatically goes on the TBR pile–I have an ongoing love affair with the Wicked Lovely series.
+ Charm. I’ve fou...moreDiscovery: Anything Melissa Marr does automatically goes on the TBR pile–I have an ongoing love affair with the Wicked Lovely series.
+ Charm. I’ve found that I tend to have high standards for short story collections, mostly because I was given so many brilliant pieces in university. If there are only 20 pages in a story, it better hold me in thrall from the first paragraph to the last. Not every story in this collection was able to do that, but they each had their own charming quirks, little tidbits that made me smile and continue to the next page and the next, even if I was a little confused about a plot twist. I didn’t realize that some stories were set in the same universe as the author’s previous books, but they were all intriguing enough that I added them to my TBR pile.
+ Themes. Enthralled seems to suggest an anthology full of love stories and starcrossed romances. Instead, the reader gets 16 fics about the importance of journeys. When I read Enthralled two weeks ago, my life was pretty quiet and settled. At this moment, however, I’m that girl on the cover: there’s a mysterious road before me and I’m looking back, not quite sure of where I’m going, but knowing I want to keep walking anyway. The time I spent away from the anthology sharpened those parallels and made the stories more valuable to me. Being a teenager is a journey in itself and it’s not always easy to see who one’s true companions are. Each story in the collection dealt with that uncertainty in a careful and beautifully-written manner.
- Backstory. Just a small caveat for readers who are unfamiliar with any of the authors in this anthology: if I recall correctly, half of the stories are set in the same universe as the author’s other books. Some stories aren’t difficult to understand, while others may require a little brushing-up on the background of that universe.
My favourite stories:
“Scenic Route,” Carrie Ryan “Things About Love,” Jackson Pearce “Merely Mortal,” Melissa Marr “Gargouille,” Mary E. Pearson
Recommendations: Iwould definitely give this book to discerning teenage readers and those looking for an well-written themed anthologies.
Release Date:February 16, 2012 Publisher: Speak (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 38...moreYou can find this review and many more at Mermaid Vision Books!
Release Date: February 16, 2012 Publisher: Speak (Penguin) Age Group: Young Adult Pages: 380 Format: Paperback Source: Finished copy received from Penguin Canada
Tell Me More: When it comes to contemporary YA romance, I am (often) easily pleased. There aren't elaborate worlds that have been constructed, nor do I have to get used to strange name permutations. A good story, with vibrant and dynamic characters, is enough to make me happy. Thankfully, authors like Melissa Jensen always find ways to take that enjoyment and rack it up to the next level.
Ella is exactly the kind of awkward, nerdy sixteen-year-old that I was at her age, and her unashamed acceptance of her personality won me over immediately. She's smart without being pretentious, and she's passionate without being annoying. That kind of balance in characters is hard to find and even harder to write, so points to Jensen for crafting a protagonist who is simply enchanting. Sadly, the same cannot be said for love interest Alex Bainbridge. While I desperately wanted to fall in love with him, I just didn't see enough of him to do so. Certainly, he was sweet and fun and charming, but what readers will find in his characterization isn't enough to tip the scales into thrilling, overwhelming adoration.
I also found that the pacing of the novel was uneven, focusing on minor events and exposition and then rocketing to the cute conclusion. Melissa Jensen's first novel, Falling in Love with English Boys, also suffered from this problem. Fine Art is rather long for a contemporary YA, and sometimes it felt as though I was missing some crucial scenes that would develop the relationship between Alex and Ella further. The evidence of those scenes was present, but readers will feel as though they took a short misstep.
That said, the plot itself was brilliant. The Fine Art of Truth or Dare may be marketed as a YA romance, but it doesn't quite have the heart for that. Ella is the shining star of this story. It's really about the chances she takes and the courage she learns to find in herself. Half the book is dedicated to her "love affair" with 19th century painter Edward Willing for good reason. Granted, most sixteen-year-olds aren't obsessed with dead painters. She embarks on a project to find out more about the influence of his relationships on his art, and what she finds isn't quite what she's looking for. But isn't that just like being a teenager? Of course, she makes mistakes on the road to self-discovery, and sometimes she is even (gasp!) selfish. The most wonderful thing about this story is that it isn't tricking you into falling for a girl or pairing by telling you all the great things about them. Life is a fine art in itself, a story of lines we don't think we can cross and the days that force us to take a risk. Ella's story is remarkably honest and open, mirroring Willing's life in ways she doesn't even see. But readers will know how close Ella really is to being happy with herself and with the dares she chooses to take on. The ride might be bumpy, and that's just the way a good game of truth or dare always goes.
That's Not All:
> Truth--Ella and the rest of the characters live in South Philly, and if you know me, you know I grew up in Philadelphia. Reading about my hometown makes me happy in ways I can't even describe.
> Truth--I have a fine arts degree (BFA Creative Writing), so all the art talk? Loved loved loved it! Edward Willing was one of the artists I studied in university, and I would probably love every novel that features him in one way or another.
The Final Say: I happily dare all YA readers to pick up this exhilarating and fun romance, straight out of the warmth of South Philly. Ella Marino will make you want to be her best friend forever.(less)